As 2018 is coming to a close there were many events in the year past we need to reflect on, most importantly the degradation of Democracy and Human Rights, and the increase of foreign interference, namely the Chinese and the Vietnamese. All of these were the causes and effects born out of the Cambodian People Party (CPP) that ruled over Cambodia lead by Prime Minister over three decades ago. And he is doing and will do what it is needed to maintain power, not only for him but also for his children. A dynasty in the making!
But the CPP was not confident of their predominance after the 2013 general elections with the increased popularity of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), the merger of the Sam Rainsy Party and the Human Rights Party of Mr. Kem Sokha that was sealed the year before in Manila. This was confirmed by the CNRP success of the Communes elections of 2017 with about 3 million popular votes, just a few percentage points below the CPP. The CPP was worried and need to take drastic action to get the CNRP out of the way.
Sam Rainsy was facing multiple law suits and convictions was forced to exile and Kem Sokha was arrested on conspiracy charge in September 2017 and their CRNP was dissolved 3 months by the Supreme Court whose President is member of the CPP. That’s it, no way for appeal. As the consequences, the 55 CNRP elected representatives were losing their seat at the National Assembly, and the 5007 elected commune officials were losing their positions unless they choose to enroll in the CPP. And worse than that, the 118 members of the CNRP Central Committee were banned from politics for 5 years.
There were other problems to the opposition and the independent media. No protests on elections results, it is the law, and the 2018 saw the CPP winning at 100%, 125 seats over 125 seats! Even though there were 21 political parties competing, without the main opposition CNRP, the results were known in advance. The pluralism was having no sense.
The reactions from the Western nations were swift: the US used their existing Magnisky Law against some top CPP leaders barring them to get entry visa to the US, etc. The European Union after repeated warning, initiated the suspension of the tax preferential treatment of “Everything But Arms” (EBA), the equivalent of around $700 million per year.
But Hun Sen remains defiant, even though his administration, his legislative and his judicial branches took some good will initiatives, such as the release of political prisoners, the ease to house arrest from prison cell for Kem Sokha, and the amendment of law allowing the Prime minister to request pardon from the king for politicians banned from politics. But only for politicians who do not dare to challenge Hun Sen, it is a farce!
And Hun Sen is betting his success on the backing of 2 communist nations: the neighboring Vietnam and the Vietnamese Communist Party, and China and the Chinese Communist Party. He has also the support of neighboring countries that are prone to authoritarian rules and care less on human rights.
But Cambodia lost a lot to the China and Vietnam, even though they got billions in grants, loans and investments. Cambodia was losing her forest resources and mines, and millions of hectares in land concessions, and mines exploitations. It was a silent invasion of Vietnamese illegal immigrant, the same as what happened to Kampuchea Krom in the 17th Century. The Chinese came to Sihanoukville and Koh Kong in great number and for grand venture in deep water seaport and industrial parks that may change to military bases that make the West to worry. But without good local industrialization program, the young population was forced to migrate out of the country to find work abroad.
With the undeclared economic war between China and the United States and the less than amiable sentiment between Cambodia and America, it is clear that Cambodia is the battleground of the new undeclared cold war between the East and the West.
The Cambodian people deserve better. They want Peace, their leaders failed them. Cambodia had the Paris Peace Agreements of October 23, 1991 to help her, but their leaders ignore them. We wish that 2019 will be a Year of Awakening for Cambodia and her people, politicians and what’s not. Only true Democracy and Justice for all may come to their rescue.
Please help give Peace a Chance, and remember “No Justice, No Peace”.
- Prum Kel